Hodgson Brothers Mountain Relay, an event unbeknown to me, as a newish Westies recruit, but a highlight in the fell running calendar. Oversubscribed entries every year means the calibre of entrants is high and the event is taken seriously. So seriously in fact, that we were the only club in the local pub both Friday and Saturday night before the event…
The race is run as a team of 8, with 4 pairs each running a variable length leg, over 25 miles with 2450m of climbing. We split into groups to recce our respective legs on the Saturday morning. I had been paired with Kerry for Leg 3, which starts from Kirkstone Pass with a stiff climb up to Red Screes, undulates over to Dove Crag before a furious gully descent to the changeover at Hartsop Hall. Our recce with Gregor, Leg 3 oracle, was useful in showing us most of the lines not to take and Mairi helpfully located the ‘pile of stones’ checkpoint location in the clag, after some disagreement from the boys. We climbed onwards to Leg 4 over Hart Crag & Fairfield, down the superb scree and towards St Sunday Crag. As time ticked on, the girls and I discussed how a 9 mile run with 3500ft of climbing at the men’s leisurely pace was not our usual race prep, however the promise of coffee and cake carried us back down to Patterdale. The last section of slippery slate steps on the descent made me grateful that I wouldn’t be chasing Ella down them in the morning.
Saturday evening was spent in the White Lion loading ourselves with liquid carbs and strangely talking about the life cycle of eels for a very long time (who knew Rob and Kris were so knowledgeable).
Sunday morning saw much drier weather and more hungover Westie men than expected. Jenn’s carefully thought out car plan seemed harder to execute on foggy heads but everyone set off to their respective starting points. As Kerry and I nervously waited on Leg 2 ladies Megan and Ellie, Leg 1 runners Jenn and Lorna had set us off to a flying start and had since came to see us off. Several false alarms (yellow vests appear to be a popular colour) happened before our Leg 2 runners came thundering into the checkpoint and set us off up the hill in a good position. Pressure on, we set off at a clearly unsustainable pace up Red Screes, I spent the ascent grinding it out with Kerry following close behind. First checkpoint reached in the clag, we bounded over tussocky ground, hitting our lines, and pushing up the second climb we passed two ladies! As we contoured round Dove Crag, I clocked another women’s team just ahead, who erroneously took the path down the valley. Kerry picked up the perfect trod down the gully which led us scrambling down the waterfall before slipping and sliding our way through the boggy terrain onto the runnable route below. As we sneaked a glance up the hill, the yellow vests of the other ladies were nowhere to be seen! Elated, we blasted down the last mile towards the final handover. Ella and Mairi shot out of view and into the drizzle for the last leg. The girls ran great and watching them descend from St Sunday’s Crag was a treat. They raced into the finish and took us home as the 5th women’s team across the line! Fab result from the Westie Women!
The men’s team had a similarly great race and finished 6th overall in a stacked field undeterred by their hangovers. Ally & Chris ran a blazing leg 1 despite someone having a tactical whitey during the descent, Niall and Rob flew over Leg 2 before handing over to Gregor and James. Sam and Tom raced over Leg 4 picking off a few teams to bring the men home! Excellent weekend of racing & drinking from the Westies!